Real-time data has become a reality thanks to cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and enhanced technology. When you understand the benefits of real-time data, you’ll never be able to go back to the days of nightly batch uploads and waiting for files to be delivered. Real-time data enables your business to remain sharp and competitive and make fast decisions that can impact the bottom line.
Defining Real-Time Data
According to Techopedia, real-time data is data that are “presented as it is acquired.” This means that as data are obtained from the source, it immediately appears in the system used to access it.
Many consider real-time data to be the most accurate information available although, of course, things can change. E-commerce businesses reviewing real-time data may see small changes when products are returned, for example; but, for the most part, real-time data offers the clearest and most accurate glimpse into all aspects of a business.
Methods of Data Collection and Presentation
Real-time data may be collected from many areas of a company. We mentioned e-commerce businesses; hybrid bricks and mortar and e-commerce businesses capture real-time data from sales terminals, web shopping carts, warehouse systems, accounting and financial systems, and third-party applications such as UPS or other carriers. All this data must flow through one central point so it can be presented in a logical, orderly, and usable fashion—graphs, charts, reports.
The Value of Real-Time Data
What is the true value of real-time data?
Instead of thinking of value, think of the risk—the risk of waiting for information. If your competitors access real-time data through their cloud-based ERP applications, and you do not have an ERP yet, you run the risk of falling behind in the race to the top.
Without real-time shipping data, for example, you’ll be unable to update customers on their order status. They’ll wonder why your company cannot provide them with the exact location of the shipment in transit when Competitor XYZ can give them that information. And, in the future, they may choose to go with Competitor XYZ if that company provides them with better information and service.
The Internet of Things (IoT) provides data from many aspects of a business that were once difficult to track. For example, in a manufacturing environment, data from censors in equipment relay their status back to a central database. The company can monitor which equipment requires servicing, which remains idle, and which continues on schedule.
It is this level of sophisticated data that now sets the average company apart from those that intend to soar to new heights of profitability.
Five Benefits of Real-Time Data: Surprising Insights
Although you may have an ERP system, do you really have real-time data? You may be shocked to find the data in your system is an hour old … or a day old … or older!
Some companies promise real-time data but instead mean the data automatically feeds into the system … on a specific schedule. It’s not like older systems that required manual updates, but it’s still not the best available.
The best systems do indeed update immediately into an ERP. Software such as Acumatia Cloud ERP and Sage 300cloud provide true real-time data with excellent integration with other software for unparalleled data availability.
If you’re looking at the benefits of real-time data, you’re already thinking about some of the benefits. These five additional benefits of real-time data, however, may surprise you.
- Accurate scheduling: Manufacturers and other businesses that rely upon scheduling equipment will find that one of the first benefits of real-time data is more accurate scheduling. When you can view what is happening on the shop floor, in the warehouse, and in the dispatch unit of fleet vehicles in real-time, you can make improvements to the schedule. Tighten up timelines, improve estimates, and provide better information to your customers about expected delivery dates. It’s all improved thanks to real-time data.
- Errors spotted immediately: It can be costly to allow errors to continue. With real-time data, you can stop production if too many items are rejected for quality issues. The same goes for shipments arriving in the warehouse. If too many arrive damaged, you can stop inbound shipments from that vendor and call to request improved packaging, for example, to cushion the items in transit. These may seem like small improvements, but they quickly add up to time and cost savings.
- Service improves dramatically: Up-to-the-minute shipping information has become the expected norm thanks to companies like Amazon who have raised the bar on customer expectations. If your company does not provide accurate and timely information in response to customer inquiries, they will take their business elsewhere. Real-time data flowing through an ERP system into customer service or sales departments ensures that the response the service team gives matches what the salespeople tell customers. Overall service improves dramatically which leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction.
- Cost-savings: Consider your warehouse for a moment. The inventory of raw materials, partially finished products, or finished goods changes every minute as items are scanned into and out of inventory and shipped to customers. If your inventory data is out of date, you may over- or under-order products. Over ordering leads to too much money invested into inventory with little excess capital for other projects. By using real-time data to manage inventory levels, you’ll be able to keep stock levels consistent without wasting money ordering excess inventory.
- Enhanced sales and marketing data: Real-time sales and marketing data provides great insights into customer trends, sales trends, and more. With this information, you can make better decisions about sales (put those laggards on clearance) and promotions (promote what’s hot and sell more.) The sales team can reach out proactively to customers because customer information is updated; they know who has been in touch and why and can spot trends in customer queries or problems. The marketing department can also use real-time data to maximize promotional opportunities. All this leads to higher sales and enhanced revenue.
Invest in the Best ERP You Can Afford
When it comes to real-time data, it pays to invest in the best ERP system you can afford. A good ERP system:
- Integrates easily with other software: Using APIs or other technology, a good ERP system easily integrates with your existing software or critical programs such as Word, Excel, and others. Look for ERPs compatible with the programs you deem essential to your business.
- Expands with your business: ERP systems that offer enhancements such as HR and CRM capabilities can grow along with your business to add features as you need them.
- Provides automation: Automated processes, including automated alerts and reports, offer considerable time-saving benefits. Review the automation features in any ERP system under consideration.
- Reporting: Most ERP systems come with reporting features but be sure to review the reports before committing to the ERP system. Some come with better data visualization features than others.
- Basics: Make sure the ERP you’re considering includes the basics—accounting, finance, operations. Some look like glorified accounting programs. A true ERP offers a robust overview of your business from numerous angles.
- Visibility: Real-time data means enhanced visibility into every part of your company. Some systems enable users to customize dashboard features so people can access the information they use most frequently right from their desktop. Others allow role-based access and/or limits.
With so much depending on your ability to access information, the benefits of real-time data cannot be underestimated. If you are considering a new ERP system, speak with the experts at Mindover Software today to learn more about Sage 100cloud, Sage 300cloud, Acumatica, and other software which can enhance your business’ access to data.
Mindover Software: Sage and Acumatica Technology Partner
Mindover Software is your technology partner and offers both Sage and Acumatica ERP. As rapid economic and technology trends re-shape many industries, Mindover Software is by your side, helping you expand, grow, and meet the demands of the local and global market with the right software for your company.
The Sage family of software includes Sage100cloud, Sage 300cloud, Sage CRM and Sage HRMS. Sage products are designed to work together and scale according to business needs. Small businesses often begin with Sage 100 while Sage 300 enables business leaders to get a complete 360-degree view of all business processes. Sage CRM provides excellent customer relationship management tools while HRMS lets you manage payroll and human resources functions from the ERP dashboard.
Acumatica Cloud ERP integrates accounting, CRM, and business management tools in a complete package. It offers the functions finance managers need to streamline and improve financial planning for small to mid-sized businesses. Acumatica offers flexibility in deployment, licensing, integration, and customization so the system can grow, expand, and adapt to your business.
Are you ready to explore a new ERP system? Or do you need to enhance your existing system? Mindover Software can help. Please contact us or call 512-990-3994.